Fears Gaza runs out of coronavirus testing kits and potential 'uncontrollable outbreak' looms

Fears Gaza runs out of coronavirus testing kits and potential 'uncontrollable outbreak' looms
Gaza has ran out of coronavirus testing kits, a health official has said, whilst the head of the besieged enclave's emergency committee said Gaza is still not out of danger.
3 min read
09 April, 2020
Gaza is under siege [Wearenotnumbers]
Gaza has run out of coronavirus testing kits, Palestinian health officials said as fears of an uncontrollable health disaster in the besieged Palestinian enclave loom. 

"Testing at our central laboratory has stopped, after coronavirus test kits completely ran out," said Ashraf al-Qidra, the spokesperson for Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, said on Wednesday.

In a news briefing, Qidra said dozens of samples were awaiting testing, meaning hundreds of people will be forced to remain in quarantine until their results come out.

He appealed to international organisations to provide the besieged enclave with Covid-19 testing kits as well as 100 ventilators and 140 beds for intensive care units, according to Reuters.

Meanwhile, the head of Gaza’s emergency committee expressed hope that matters in Gaza could gradually go back to normal if the spread of coronavirus in the besieged enclave continues at a slow rate.

Mohammed Abu Salmiya told local media that Gaza’s ministries of health, interior and other governmental agencies are halfway through the projected peak period and if the number of cases remain stable over the next few weeks, Gaza would have successfully left the peak period of the crisis. 

Read More: Trapped between Israel's occupation and coronavirus: How are Palestinians coping with the pandemic?

"However, the next few weeks will be very decisive," he warned 

"The tide can turn any minute, which will need a completely different response," Abu Salmiya added.

Hamas has closed schools, mosques and wedding halls and banned large street gatherings, including protests against Israel, to contain coronavirus, but has not yet imposed a full lockdown.

Prisoners for ventilators

These comments come days after an Israeli company said it is working to send ventilators to Gaza as both Hamas and Israel hinted at being open to a prisoner swap with the Palestinian movement in exchange for medical aid.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday expressed willingness to enter into a prisoner exchange with Hamas.

"The coordinator for captives and missing people Yaron Bloom and his staff, together with the National Security Council and the defence establishment are prepared to act constructively with a goal to return the bodies and missing people and end this matter, and call for an immediate discussion through intermediaries," a statement from Netanyahu's office said.

On Monday, Israel announced that it was launching an initiative to provide Gaza with ventilators. 

An Israeli medical technology group, AID Genomics, said that it would work with the Copenhagen-based genomics company BGI to immediately set up an emergency lab for residents of Gaza.

The two companies plan on developing capacity to test 3,000 Gazans a day.

Nearly 2 million Gazans have been under Israeli siege since 2007, with extremely limited access to necessities such as healthcare, water and food. Currently, 12 Gazans have tested positive for coronavirus.

According to Gaza's ministry of social development, 70 percent of the population of the territory is food insecure. In the summer of 2019, Gaza's Ministry of Health announced it was facing an "unprecedented" shortage of essential medicines and medical supplies – a situation that has not yet been alleviated.

With an extremely high population density of 5,453 people per km2, preventing an outbreak is paramount. However, given the lack of resources, successful prevention remains far from certain.


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